Alaskan Malamute Temperament: Resilient independence paired with a people-loving heart

For many years, the Alaskan Malamute has been ranked the 54th most popular breed of dog in the entire United States. They were crucial for the survival of tribes in Alaska and a classic worker. So, there's a good chance that this breed has awoken your interest and your fingers itch to cuddle that fluffy coat of theirs. But, before you do, let's make sure the Alaskan Malamute is a fit for your lifestyle and needs--from size considerations and temperamental character to potential doggy health issues. This blog will give you some idea and inspiration if this dog breed is the right choice for you.

Alaskan Malamute showing their paw
Alaskan Malamutes are very playful dogs but they shouldn't be walked off lead

History of the Alaskan Malamute

This state dog of Alaska has been bred by the Malamuit Inupiaq people in western Alaska as a freight dog. Although a bit hazy, the estimated breeding dates as far back as 4,000-4,500 years ago. The Alaskan Malamute was known for pulling heavy freight over icy terrain. Perfect work for their strength, resilience, and tremendous endurance. They were vital for the survival of the tribe.

The Alaskan Malamute is a basal dog breed meaning it gave influence over the development of other modern-day breeds. They’re one of the oldest sled dogs in the world.

During the Gold Rush times, other parts of the Americas discovered this dog as a working dog. They transported important supplies over mountain passes. Unfortunately, many pure-bred Malamutes have been cross bred during the time for profit taking. The Second World War was also not kind to the Malamute. The Malamute we know today was only saved due to a few breeders coming together with around 30-40 dogs to save the breed.

The Malamute is sometimes confused with the Siberian Husky.

What are the differences between a Husky and the Alaskan Malamute?

Although these dogs can look similar in their appearance, they’re two separate breeds. The only thing they have in common is that they’re both bred for cold conditions and sled dogs. Pulling anything is their second nature.

Alaskan Malamutes have been bred more for their strength and endurance. Malamutes are the classic working dog. Huskies a runners and a bit smaller rather bred for their speed. This shows clearly in their weight and height difference. Malamutes are heavier and taller at the withers than Huskies. They don’t have the gene for different coloured eyes like the Husky as well.

Malamutes look very similar to a wolf, have a brought and deep chest with a well-muscled body and a bulky muzzle with erect ears.

Their bushy tail allows them to cover their nose during cold weather which is very helpful in sub-zero conditions.

Now that we have a good idea of the breeding purpose, lets have a look what your life would look like with an Alaskan Malamute?

What is it like to live with an Alaskan Malamute?

Malamutes love pulling a sled or a cart. Its so deeply ingrained in their blood that it will be their highlight of the day. Very likely you will not need to train them to pull anything. It will come naturally. Due to their nature and their big size, they require daily exercise exceeding 2 hours. The house and garden should be big enough for the dog to run around and feel free. That said, the fence around your garden must be a sufficiently strong one. The world is their backyard; not many fences can hold them effectively.

Running Alaskan Malamute
Not much can hold back an Alaskan Malamute once on their way to an adventure

Malamutes have a surprisingly slow metabolism hence the right feeding schedule needs to be adhered to. Otherwise you might end up with an obese Malamute. Their stomach doesn’t know an end to food. They will eat till they drop.

Malamutes can display food aggression and same sex aggression. This is often the case with dogs who have been bred to sustain themselves independently. If you have several dogs, its recommended to feed them separate even if they have been growing up together.

Socialise your puppy early. Malamutes can be dominant and have a high prey drive. It is not recommended to take them off lead when taking them for a walk. Lacking socialisation can lead to a disobedient and potentially aggressive dog. Although its not very common, you want to minimise the potential as much as possible. It will be very hard to get a 40kg dog under control. That doesn’t mean Malamutes can’t live with smaller animals. You just need to socialise both animals from 8 weeks onwards.

Malamutes can be hard to train and do require a firm but gentle hand. They’re not known for being the most obedient dog breed and generally prefer to follow commands when there is something in for them in return. A certain wildness is in them which makes out the charm in this breed too. There is good news on the housebreak side of things. Alaskan Malamutes do love their coat clean and you will often see them licking their paws. This instinct does tend to make the house training rather quick compared with other breeds.

Malamutes will see you as their pack leader. These are not dogs that can be left alone for longer hours. Howling and destructive behaviour can then be the output from a dog who is suffering from separation anxiety.

There is also Malamutes with very long and wooly coats. This is not the breed standard as a wooly Malamute tends to collect ice between paws which can cause lameness or cause frostbite where ice parts the coat. We are not sure why the gene survived but it is present in some little puppies, although being recessive. Longer coats need daily brushing to keep it tidy and avoid matting. The shorter coats are maintained with a weekly brushing. But either way, these dogs can shed. If you’re very peculiar about cleanliness, then you might want to look at minimal shedding options. If you don’t mind the shedding, your vacuum cleaner will soon become your second best friend.

Treated with love and care a Malamute puppy will grow into a loving, kind and people-orientated dog. They’re so friendly and affectionate that they will usually not make for a great watchdog as they want to please and make friends. Their size is maybe what can intimidate an intruder but that’s about it.

Malamutes are also quiet dogs who don’t bark very often. They will communicate with you with a “woo woo”. They’re noble, loyal and will love to take part in all family activities. They tend to bond with all members of the family very well.

If you have a big house and garden, have a patient, gentle but firm hand as well as an active family, the Mallie might be the dog for you. If you’re a novice dog owner it would be beneficial to gain a lot of knowledge and hands-on experience with giant and hard to train dogs.

A smiling Alaskan Malamute
The streak of independence matches their giant heart for people

Alaskan Malamute temperament in a nutshell

  • Needs a big house and garden to roam around and to not feel enclosed

  • People-orientated dog who likes to be around their owner

  • High energy dogs that require vigorous exercise and a high, secure fence

  • Can portray food-aggression and same-sex aggression

  • Training needs to be approached differently due to their intelligence paired with stubbornness. Generally not suited for first time dog owners

Potential diseases in the Alaskan Malamute breed

Alaskan Malamutes are a relatively healthy breed however there is some hereditary diseases that prospective owners should be aware of. As a new owner you should also be prepared to pay medical expenses that come with the breed. The sheer size of this dog will make a medical treatment very expensive. You should always opt for a comprehensive insurance with the Malamute.

Hereditary diseases are genetically predisposed. For this reason, its important to always choose a reputable breeder who has screened their dogs DNA and knows from which family they come from. Good pre-work and research can help minimise any of the below upsetting conditions.

Alaskan Malamute Polyneuropathy (AM-PN) is a recessive neuromuscular disease. It can lead to developing gait in limbs, sometimes affecting muscles or degrading nerve fibers.

Hip dysplasia is another disease that the puppies parent should have been screened for. It’s a deformity of the hip socket which can lead to arthritis later in life. This can be very devasting for a Malamute who love to run and pull.

They can also be affected by a sort of dwarfism known as chondrodysplasia, which leads to shortened front limbs.

Due to their deep and broad chest they can also be prone to bloat.

A condition called Hypothyroidism can also be present. It leads to an underactive thyroid, causing problems with weight, skin and energy levels.

Most diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means that the puppy must inherit the gene from both parents to become an affected. If the mutation is only present in one parent, then the puppy becomes a carrier. Hence, it is so important to choose a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their Mallie.

The more aware you are of these diseases, the higher the chances that you can prolong the life of your dog if problems arise. Same as with your child, you should be aware of all required vaccinations, risks and even risks outside of your home. This blog post for example outlines all toxic spring plants that can be harmful to your dog.

The more you know, the better you will be prepared.

Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues, when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber play things like chew bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation and are not breathable like natural materials. Swap out those harmful materials with eco friendly pet products from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend. Breathable, eco-friendly and sustainable!

Alaskan Malamute Fun facts

In 1984, the 100th anniversary of the American Kennel Club, 4 stamps with 8 dogs were featured on stamps for the first time. The dog breeds included were: The Beagle, Boston Terrier, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, American Foxhound, a Black and Tan Coonhound, the Collie and last but not least the Alaskan Malamute. This was to commemorate the importance of these dogs to the development of American culture and manifest a place in the society.

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The Malamute is a loyal and brave dog breed that can make a great pet for the right person. They're not suited for just anybody. Before you decide to bring them into your home, it's important to read beyond this article, consult a breeder and speak to a vet.

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